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On a late spring day in 1856 Prince Albert carried out one of the less routine royal engagements of the Victorian era, by laying the foundation stone of what was to become ‘The Strangers’ Home for Asiatics, Africans and South Sea Islanders’, located at Limehouse in the London docklands. The deputation receiving the prince was headed by the earl of Chichester, who was the First Church Estates Commissioner and president of the Church Missionary Society, and included Thomas Carr, formerly bishop of Bombay, Maharajah Duleep Singh, a Sikh convert to Christianity and a favourite of Queen Victoria, and William Henry Sykes, MP and chairman of the East India Company.
By upbringing, family connections, and education, Felix Mendelssohn was ideally positioned to contribute to the historical legacies of the German people, who in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars discovered that they were a nation with a distinct culture. The number of cultural icons of German nationalism that Mendelssohn "discovered," promoted, or was asked to promote (by way of commissions) in his compositions is striking: Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press, Dürer and Nuremberg, Luther and the Augsburg Confession as the manifesto of Protestantism, Bach and the St. Matthew Passion, Beethoven and his claims to universal brotherhood. The essays in this volume investigate Mendelssohn's relationship to the music of the past from a variety of perspectives, including the pervasive presence of Bach's music within the larger Mendelssohn family, the influence of Beethoven in the Reformation Symphony, and Mendelssohn's compositions for organ and his relationship to English organs in particular. Together, they shed light on the construction of legacies that, in some cases, served to assert German cultural supremacy only two decades after the composer's death. Contributors: Celia Applegate, John Michael Cooper, Hans Davidsson, Wm. A. Little, Peter Mercer-Taylor, Siegwart Reichwald, Glenn Stanley, Russell Stinson, Benedict Taylor, Nicholas Thistlewaite, Jürgen Thym, R. Larry Todd, Christoph Wolff. Jürgen Thym is Professor Emeritus of Musicology at the Eastman School of Music and editor of Of Poetry and Song: Approaches to the Nineteenth-Century Lied (University of Rochester Press, 2010).